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Wanderlust Wednesdays: Galapagos Islands


I’m sure all that know me will not be surprised that I’ve picked yet another beach destination for Wanderlust Wednesdays!  I just can’t help it!  Look how gorgeous this is!!  The Galapagos Islands have been on my bucket list since before the term “bucket list” was invented.  🙂

The Galapagos Islands tourism destinations

The Galapagos Archipelago is currently made up of 18 main islands, 3 small islands and 107 rocks and islets

Originally named “Insulae de los Galopegos” or Islands of the Tortoises, the Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic  islands that straddle the equator about 600 miles west of Ecuador.  I first heard of this interesting destination in elementary school when we learned about Charles Darwin and the research he did on the islands that led to his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Over 97% of the archipelago’s land mass has been deemed a national park and 27,000 square miles of ocean surrounding the islands is a marine reserve and whale sanctuary.  While I knew that the number and variety of wildlife both on land and in the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands was enormous, I had a hard time actually coming up with a number for this article.  Geographic isolation, lack of human contact (relatively speaking!), ongoing seismic activity and location at the confluence of three major ocean currents all contribute to the development of unusual plant and animal life, making this archipelago a particularly unique and valuable spot for scientists.  Nearly 1 in 4 species live only in the Galapagos chain and have not changed much since prehistoric times.

 

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The Galapagos sea lions breed exclusively on the islands and are slightly smaller than California sea lions

Flamingos.

Galapagos flamingos can be elusive but you might catch sight of them around saline lakes

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The Galapagos penguin is endemic to the islands and is the only penguin that lives wild north of the equator

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The Galapagos Giant Tortoise can reach weights of almost 900 pounds and live in the wild for over 100 years!

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The blue-footed boobies get their cool coloring from pigments in the fresh fish they eat. The health of the bird can be initially determined by how dark their feet are.

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Galapagos Marine Iguanas are the only iguanas to swim in the ocean. The male iguanas found on Espanola Island are brightly colored with a red tint and change to a green color during mating season.

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The frigate bird, related to the pelican, inflates his red gular pouch during mating season to attract a mate.

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Female frigate bird – think she’s impressed?

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Galapagos Albatross or waved albatross breed primarily on Espanola Island

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Everyone enjoys a little time sunning themselves!

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The beaches are kind of crowded around here…

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But what a great experience for unique family bonding!

Thinking of traveling here?  

Normally I’m a DIY’er when it comes to travel.  I like to plan all the stops, pick the accommodations, and research all the activities on our trips; we rarely go on guided tours as we like to do things our way.  However, please note that the majority of the Galapagos Islands are a national park and they have rules you must follow.  Unlike the national parks in the US, you can NOT go in alone.  There are only certain sites you are permitted to visit with marked trails to stay on and you must be accompanied by a certified naturalist guide.  It may seem a little strict to us, but they are doing what they feel they must to conserve this precious piece of Earth!

 

Other great info if you’re interested in reading more about this fascinating place:

Charles Darwin Foundation

Galapagos Conservancy

Ecuador Explorer – Galapagos Islands

United Nations World Heritage Centre – Galapagos Islands

10 bizarre facts about the Galapagos Islands

 

 “…by far the most remarkable feature in the natural history of this archipelago…is that the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings…I never dreamed that islands, about fifty or sixty miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been differently tenanted.”  Charles Darwin – Voyage of the Beagle

I would love to tour these islands with National Geographic Expeditions or Lindblad Expeditions.  WOW what an experience that would be!  Time to get back to reality though.  Until next time, bon voyage, friends!

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Aside

Travel Fact Friday: Where can you drive through 8 ecosystems in 1 day?


Answer: Hawaii Island (aka the “Big Island”) is home to one of the most diverse environments in the entire world – 8 of the world’s 13 ecosystems!  

On the famous Road to Hana you can experience 8 different ecosystems such as deserts, dry forests, tropical rain forests, and tundra as well as salt and fresh water marine environments, mountains, and lava fields.  Micro-climates are created across the island caused by a unique combination of its location in the Pacific Ocean, the trade winds, and the altitude difference on the island.  How cool is THAT?! 

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Credit for this info goes to our kids.  They mentioned it at the dinner table one night and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since!  This is definitely on the Bucket List!